This season, motorlat.com reported up to date coverage of the 2019 F1 New Balance Esports Series which saw David Tonizza take the drivers’ title for Ferrari Driver Academy Hublot Esports team. This victory came to the esports version of the Prancing Horse in their first year of entering the fray and the third year of the competition’s existence. Yesterday, Formula 1 proudly declared that the season brought its highest ever online audience: 5.8million people!
In this respect Liberty Media certainly achieved what they set out to do in that they have brought the excitement and exhilaration of Formula 1 to a new generation of fans around the globe. This statistic is a major coup for F1 because in 2018 the combined total of online and tv viewers was 5.5million. Therefore, to reach 5.8 million in 2019 for online viewership alone further shows that Esports will be around for many years to come. Especially seeing how 79% the total of online viewers were below 34 years old.
Everyone loves a ‘rags to riches’ story and the idea of the wannabe becoming big is exactly what happened to the 2019 Drivers’ Champion. In 2018, no team wanted to utilise his talents and then in 2019 David Tonizza claimed the highest prize on offer. F1 has wasted no time declaring: His achievement embodied the living room to podium narrative that is at the heart of the F1 Esports program.
As great as David Tonizza was, it was to be Red Bull Racing Esports who secured their first Team’s Championship title. This was a truly competitive battle with 4 teams all still in the running ahead of the final event. Ferrari Driver Academy Hublot Esports Team, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Esports Team and Renault Sport Team Vitality could all just have easily been the victor but it was Red Bull who flew to the top. The secret of success was consistency: 9 podium finishes which included 3 victories over the course of a 12-race season.
Sean Bratches, Managing Director, Commercial Operations at Formula 1, said: “The 2019 Formula 1 esports season has been a tremendous success and a huge congratulations to both Ferrari’s David Tonizza and Red Bull Racing Esports team on their hugely impressive titles. I also want to thank all our partners for helping deliver this year’s success. The growth of esports in Formula 1 continues to accelerate.”
Herein also lies the reason Esports will continue to flourish – the partners aka the sponsors aka - the money!
New Balance, DHL and Fanatec’s involvement has been vital to Esports. Fanatec is the leading manufacturer in professional simulation hardware having created a range of hardware such as force feedback steering wheels, pedals, and complete cockpits for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC based racing simulators. As the official website says: Fanatec delivers the tools to become faster on both virtual and real race tracks. Not to mention the title sponsor New Balance which proudly declares: all drivers wear New Balance socks and shoes whilst racing in the Pro Series. Rolex sponsors F1 but very few fans have one of their watches…whereas it is very feasible to acquire the equipment on offer in the Esports world.
F1.com announced the headline figures for their season yesterday:
- A record breaking 109,000 players attempted over 1.4 million laps to qualify earlier in the year.
- The first year all ten official Formula 1 Esports teams participated in the series
- A record breaking $500,000 cash prize fund for 2019, more than double year on year.
So, where next for 2020? The answer is China!
League of Legends competitive online battles are rating sensations and have a huge fandom. This year’s World Title for League of Legends was won by China and starting from next year, China’s regional participants will enter the pro draft.
Julian Tan, Head of Digital Business Initiatives & Esports at Formula 1, said: “We have also launched our first ever regional series in China in search of the next Chinese esports stars as well as have launched a mobile esports qualifier on F1 Mobile Racing for the first time to feed into the program next year.”
The addition of a mobile esports qualifier is an inspired one as on every metro journey around the major cities whether it be Beijing, Shenzhen or Shanghai – time spent on the journey is spent by looking at mobile devices. Therefore, who wouldn’t rather be racing virtually at speeds of 300kmph whilst crawling under the city?!
All this indicates that 2019 may have been a great season but you can be sure that 2020 will be even better!